The dual meet season was a tough go for Wheaton’s wrestling team. But after finishing 2-7 in duals, the Thunder came on strong to win the CCIW tournament Feb. 19 at Elmhurst, then wrestled well again while finishing at the Midwest Regional championships Feb. 28 at Crawfordsville, Ind.
The Thunder came away with one regional champion and three-runners, and they’re gearing up for the NCAA Division III national meet Friday and Saturday in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Wheaton coach Jim Gruenwald spoke about each of his qualifers, regional champ Mark Savenok at 149 pounds and runners-up Stephen Aiello at 165, Dan Olsen at 184 and Carlos Fuentez at 125.
Savenok, senior, 26-7 including 5-0 at 149, returning all-American: “Mark is a supremely talented young man, probably one of the most talented guys I’ve worked with on any level,” Gruenwald said. “He had been kind of in a slump this year at 157. For the sake of the team and making a run at a CCIW title, the coaching staff thought he might get a little more spark in his wrestling if he dropped to 149, and the proof is in the pudding.”
Aiello, sophomore, 30-8: “Stephen is about as consistent a wrestler as you’ll ever come across. It’s almost like each match in his mind is scripted and it goes from a to b to c to d. He’s not the greatest athlete in the world, but he compensates by being a student, almost a doctor of wrestling.”
Dan Olson, senior, 29-9, 2013 all-American: “At regionals last year, the Nos. 1, 2 and 5 guys in the country were at his weight. He was fourth in that field. It was frustrating for him and for us, a returning all-American sitting home. This has been a really good year for Dan. He’s a warrior.”
Fuentez: 21-19, freshman: “Carlos started well, then faded at midseason. We went back did a few things as far as his training and got his mind where it needed to be. In regionals, it all kind of clicked for him.”
BASKETBALL TOURNEYS: Here’s what’s on tap for area schools in NAIA Division II and NCAA Divisions II and III:
NAIA Division II: In the men’s tournament at Point Lookout, Mo., CCAC champion Olivet Nazarene (25-8) had a first-round game against Warren Pacific (25-7) late Wednesday night. St. Francis of Joliet (23-9) opens Thursday morning against St. Francis of Indiana (25-7)
In women’s play at Sioux City, Iowa, St. Xavier 29-3 opens Thursday morning against Oregon Tech (23-10).
NCAA Division III: Elmhurst finished 20-8 after beating St. Norbert 110-98 in its men’s tournament opener, then losing to Northwestern of Minnesota 84-75 at De Pere, Wisconsin.
The CCIW’s two women’s qualifiers lost their tournament openers. North Central (22-6) fell 87-82 to Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Wheaton lost 70-67 in overtime against Wisconsin Lutheran.
NCAA Division II: Lewis’ men’s and women’s teams both open against Wisconsin-Parkside. The women (28-2) have a first-rounder Friday in Moughton, Michigan, while the men (21-8) open Saturday in Louisville.